Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Appalachian Trail along the Housatonic River

The trail is a beautiful wide path along the river.
Today the Tuesday Berkshire Hikers walked on the Appalachian Trail from Kent to Cornwall Bridge, CT, along the Housatonic River. As we started, we met four thru-hikers in their 20s, three men and a woman. They started in Georgia on different dates in March, so they had been on the trail for over four months! They became friends on the trail when they found that they hiked at the same pace (which was much faster than we did!) so that it was easy to keep together. It's so much fun to talk to thru-hikers about their experiences.

The weather was perfect. The trail was flat so we could enjoy the views of the river which was wide and shallow with plenty of room for a couple of fly fishermen casting into the deeper pools. In a state as heavily populated as Connecticut, it's amazing and gratifying that we could walk for almost five miles along this beautiful section of river without seeing a house on either side.

What a great way to spend a summer day!

The thru-hikers are the ones with the BIG packs!
Here we walk along the edge of a hay field.
The rocks made a great place to stop for lunch.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Purple Fringed Orchid on Mt. Greylock

The very delicate flowers of the Purple Fringed Orchid.
I saw 5 or 6 of these beautiful orchids on Mt. Greylock yesterday on the Stage Trail and the Woodason Spring Trail. I had never seen them before so I asked the rangers at the Visitors Center who identified the flower and knew where I had found it.

Of course, I didn't pick it. The rangers identified it from the photo on my camera. I never pick any wildflowers. I enjoy them where they are and leave them in peace to live out their natural life! 

Fireweed on Mt. Greylock, Jones Nose Trail

Lots of bees were in the Fireweed on the Jones Nose Trail near the parking area.
I am attempting to hike all of the trails in the Mt. Greylock State Reservation (approx. 80 miles) and I still have a few left. Yesterday I started at the Rounds Rock parking area and followed the Rounds Rock Trail to the Northrup Trail. I continued north on the Stage Trail to Greylock Road to the Campground Trail and back down on the CCC Dynamite Trail to Jones Nose and then the Woodason Trail back to my car. Sounds like a lot, but it's mostly moderate terrain and about 7 miles. With the the temperature in the 70s, a breeze and low humidity, it was a very nice walk.

Beautiful pink flowers and stunning views—what could be better than that!
I remember seeing the Fireweed (Evening Primrose family) about 12 years ago when hiking this same trail with my sister. Nice to see that it is still there and thriving! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Yokun Ridge, Lenox to Pittsfield

Yesterday I led an Appalachian Mountain Club hike from Olivia's Overlook, Lenox, across Yokun Ridge, up to Lenox Mountain and down the Bousquet ski trails (approx 7 miles). It was a great day--less humid and a little cooler than last week.

I love this trail. The northern section of the ridge called Mahanna Cobble has recently been preserved by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council. The views are magnificent!

View from Yokun Ridge with Onota Lake in the center and Pittsfield Airport on the right.

View of Richmond Pond.

View of Mt. Greylock from the top of Bousquet ski trails. 

We passed some very tasty low-bush blueberries along the way!

Appalachian Trail along the Housatonic in Connecticut

Thursday, the weather was hot and oppressive. I came across a group of about 10 thru-hikers in their twenties who started in Georgia and were headed to Maine. They had decided that it was too hot to hike and were cooling off in the Housatonic River and sharing a trailside pizza feast provided by a trail angel. A trail angel is someone who offers help to hikers for free. It could be food, transportation, socks, shower--anything that they might need. What they give is called trail magic.

The Appalachian Trail near Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut, follows the Housatonic River for 4.5 miles, forming the longest flat stretch on the 2180-mile trail.

I enjoyed watching this Tiger Swallowtail butterfly feeding
 in the beautiful lavender-colored wild burgamot flowers.

Mt. Greylock, Robinson Point

View to the west and down into the Hopper from Robinson Point, Mt. Greylock.
Wednesday, Janice & I hiked up the Bernard Farm Trail to the Appalachian Trail to the summit with a side excursion to Robinson Point. The temperature hit 90 but most of the trail was in the shade and with a slight breeze we enjoyed it. A short section near the top was in the sun and the sweat was running down my back!

We came across a small patch of Turtlehead (Figwort family, about 3 ft. tall). Some Turtlehead flowers are all white but some, like this one, are nicely tinged with pink.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Spectacle Pond Farm, Sandisfield

The water was deliciously refreshing on Tuesday in the 90-degree heat. No one lives on this lake and we had the place to ourselves. When I was little, on a hot day my sister and I would ride our horses up Cold Spring Road, not paved at the time, and give the horses a swim in the lake!

A wonderful old White Pine which must have sustained some damage and several branches became main trunks. Interestingly, about half way up in the photo, two of the trunks became fused by a side branch thus forming an H-shape.
The lake and surrounding property (900 acres) has been part of the Otis State Forest since 2007. Here is the interesting history of the families who farmed it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bear Mountain, Salisbury, CT

Looking east toward Twin Lakes.
Yesterday was hot but not as sunny or steamy as it has been. I hiked up the Undermountain Trail, to the Paradise Lane Trail, to the Appalachian Trail, to the top of Bear Mountain and then down the Undermountain Trail back to the trailhead. (Approx. 6.7 miles) This was a Berkshire Appalachian Mountain Club hike that I co-led with Dave Sauriol. The club has many volunteer-led outdoor activities throughout the year and you don't have to be a member to participate. The AMC website lists events all over the northeast. Here is the searchable activities schedule.

In the morning there were only a few cars at the trailhead, but when we returned, the parking area was filled and 5 or 6 cars were parked on the roadside. Bear Mountain is the highest peak in Connecticut with a great view at the top. A popular hike!
Looking north toward Mt. Everett.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Flowering Raspberries at Beartown

I saw many beautiful Purple-flowering Raspberries in bloom at Beartown recently. It's a shrub that grows along the roadside and trail edge. Very pretty!

The flowers are about an inch-and-a-half across and the stems and branches have no thorns. The leaves are maple-like. The berry resembles a large raspberry and is tasty but has large seeds.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

We help build the Brother's Trail

The Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) is building a new trail on Yokun Ridge above Kripalu in Lenox. Yesterday, five of the Tuesday Berkshire Hikers helped professional trail workers, BNRC staff, Greenagers and other volunteers to build this new trail which will complete a loop on the BNRC Yokun Ridge Preserve. 

We removed the duff and root mat down to the mineral soil on about 100 ft. of trail. The next step, which will probably be done by the Greenagers, is to add rocks and compacted sandy soil to bring it up to the level of the forest floor. 

We noticed that the Greenagers were working incredibly hard and the professionals were doing beautiful rock work near a stream. It's amazing to learn some of what goes into making a trail. And our sweat is in it, too! It really was fun!

"Berkshire Natural Resources Council is a non-profit land conservation organization working throughout the Berkshires in Massachusetts to preserve threatened lands. The Council places special emphasis on protecting Berkshire's farms, forests, streams, and ridgelines – the great landscape features that give us clean water, fresh air, local produce, healthy wildlife, and outstanding recreational opportunities."

Nettle mettle!

This is Wood Nettle that I, unfortunately, had a run-in with in Beartown State Forest, Lee. The plant brushed against my bare shins and I felt a painful tingling. Tiny hairs on the stems and leaves are what caused the sharp stinging pain. The fortunate thing is that the pain lasted only about 5 minutes and is certainly not as painful as a bee sting. Another member of the nettle family, Stinging Nettle, has similar properties. They grow in wet, woodland areas.

Interestingly, the top leaves of nettle are good to eat. When steamed like spinach, the stinging hairs are deactivated. (Wear gloves to harvest!) They're full of vitamins and have many medicinal uses as well. Here's a link to more info and recipes.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Campbell Falls, New Marlborough

With all the rain we've been having lately, Campbell Falls is a wonderful cascade of water. It's right on the border of Connecticut. The stone state boundary marker is on the trail just before the river.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ouch! (swat)

Yes, that is my arm with a real mosquito that is actually biting me! The mosquitos are plentiful and HUNGRY!

We have had rain some part of every day for what seems like forever and the humidity has been so high that the air feels heavy on my body. I walked to the top of Mt. Frissell, (in Mt. Washington on the CT border) Sunday and the trail had never felt so challenging! Heat and humidity were taking their toll.

I have had several hikes rained out. Let’s hope for better weather soon.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Surrounded by Laurel Blossoms!

Here on the Appalachian Trail, near Upper Goose Pond in Lee, the laurel blossoms almost cover the trail! This is a banner year for the laurel.    


I have seen bears from my car. I’ve seen a cute cub up a tree in the village of West Stockbridge. I’ve seen a bear trying to get into the dumpster in a state park. I’ve had a bear take down my bird feeder. From inside my house, I’ve seen bears on my deck with just the sliding door between us.

But this is the first time I've seen a bear while hiking solo. I heard it first, breaking sticks and moving the brush. It was walking slowly directly away from me up a stone ridge near the trail. It turned, looked at me for a long moment and then kept climbing the cliffs. I, of course, stopped and watched. I lost sight of it but could still hear it moving.

I realized it was heading for my destination—Flag Rock on the west side of Monument Mountain in Housatonic. I walked on a few minutes and met a young woman walking quickly down the path.

“Did you see the bear? “ I asked.

“No, but I heard it,” She said. “I didn’t want to stick around!”

I had to decide to continue on or not. I opted to continue but walked slowly and started singing to let the bear know I was coming. The only song I could think of at the moment was “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall”. It worked! I did not encounter the bear again.

Whenever I meet wildlife on the trail, I stop and watch, and wait until the animal moves on. I let them have their space. Black bear are not normally confrontational and I can appreciate their strength and power at a distance. What a privilege!